Ag ministers aim for AgriStability upgrades for 2020

Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau (fifth from left) meets in Quebec City with provincial and territorial ag ministers. (CNW Group/Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada)

Coming out of their meeting in Quebec City, Canada’s federal, provincial and territorial ministers for agriculture say they plan to meet again before year’s end to see about improving the AgriStability program for 2020.

In a statement Friday, the ministers said they discussed “adjustments that could improve existing (business risk management) programs to address the needs of producers and complement private sector tools.”

To that end, they said, they’ve “directed officials to return with a set of proposed improvements to AgriStability for the ministers’ consideration before year-end.”

AgriStability is an income stabilization program meant to provide support to eligible farmers facing a significant margin decline, and to offer payments when a farm’s current-year program margin falls below 70 per cent of its reference margin.

“Reference margin” refers to a farm’s five-year-average program margin, leaving out the lowest and highest program margins a farm reported during that stretch.

The ag ministers said they “discussed options on potential changes” to AgriStability to “ensure equitable treatment and to simplify the program.”

For example, they said, they’ve agreed to analyze how AgriStability treats private insurance payments.

They also said they’ve directed officials to “find solutions that will also encourage the development and use of complementary risk management tools.”

Ag groups including the Canadian Federation of Agriculture have recently pressed for changes to BRM programs in the face of export trade disruptions affecting several of Canada’s key overseas markets, and of the well documented weather woes seen so far this spring and summer in various regions.

The CFA last month called for “immediate reforms” to the BRM program suite “to ensure they are responsive to the changing environment farmers face, particularly reforms to the AgriStability program.”

To ensure “credible support” for farmers, the federation said, such reforms would need to include restoring AgriStability margin coverage to 85 per cent and removing AgriStability’s reference margin limit.

The most recent change made within AgriStability was a two-month extension to its enrolment deadline for the 2019 year without penalty, moving that deadline to July 2. — Glacier FarmMedia Network

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